By Graham Glover –
I’m not one for self-help books. You know, those volumes that fill every bookstore promising success if you only follow their 7-step model. More often than not, these books are garbage and a waste of your resources and time.
I’m also not the best parent. I like to think I’m a decent dad (my Father’s Day cards told me I was the best), but I’ve got a lot of work to do (just don’t tell my kids).
So, no 7-step model for parenthood from me, and full self-acknowledgement that I am nowhere near a perfect dad.
But hear me loud and clear today: SEND YOUR KID TO CAMP. It is the best thing they can do this summer. If you can, send them to more than one. Ideally, send them to an overnight camp. Make it at least a week. 2 weeks would be better. A month would be incredible. But send them. Send them until they can become a counselor and then encourage them to do so. Why? Because summer camp is the greatest thing a kid can do.
I’m not pushing one particular camp or camp-style. All boys/girls or coed, secular or religious, sports-focused or fun-focused, north-south-east or west…it doesn’t matter. The key is to get your kids out of the house – away from you, in a new environment, and in a place where they will be challenged, have fun, and appreciate what it means to be a kid.
My camp “alma mater” (5 years as a camper and 5 as a counselor), Camp Crystal Lake is a place I would return to in a heartbeat. Those 10 summers were some of the best and most formative of my life. I’m thrilled my daughter will be attending later this summer. There’s even a rumor some of us counselors might have a reunion sometime soon…
At camp, a child learns to appreciate the wonder of the outdoors. Even if they already spend a lot of time outside, camp has a way of reinforcing the true joy of getting away from iPods, TVs, computers, and other “screens”. Too many of the Privates I see in Basic Training have no idea how to function outside: physically or emotionally. A good camp is focused almost entirely on being outside – the place we humans are most naturally situated and where we have the most fun.
At camp, a child is challenged with people, obstacles, activities, and counselors that are oftentimes different than what they experience during the school year. These challenges can do more to mature a child and more to teach them, than months of instruction in a classroom. We adults know that life isn’t easy, that failures confront us time and again, and yet we preserve in living and in our respective vocations. Camp teaches these important life lessons, even if kids don’t realize it at the time. In teaching children these lessons, they become better students, better athletes, and just better kids.
I’m a staunch traditionalist, but I love the idea that camp can destroy stereotypes and given different perspectives to presuppositions about life.
I was well rooted in my faith and my family, but the people I met as a camper and counselor showed me there is a big world out there, with lots of different ways of living and several different ideas on things. As a parent this shouldn’t scare you. It should excite you. Summer camp can be the linchpin for discussions and growth when your child returns home that would have taken years to begin on your own.
Camp can also be the greatest tool in teaching your children independence. Overnight camp does this best. The longer they are away, I think, the more independent they become. Sure, you can keep your child in the safety-bubble of your home and your neighborhood, where everything is as you plan it to be. Or you can find a camp where your child can learn and grow, with challenging activities and interesting and eclectic campers/counselors. You can create a hermit or someone who is able to function outside the safe and comfortable confines of their home.
Oh to be a child again. Oh to be a camper.
So get with it parents…send your kid to camp!